Today in fire history: an early morning fire in a dormitory resulted in the deaths of ten female students

Blog Post created by paulalevesque Employee on Dec 13, 2014


In the early morning hours of December 13, 1977, a fire occurred at Aquinas Hall, a dormitory at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island.  This fire resulted in the deaths of ten female students who were resident s of the fourth floor.  The primary fuel for the fire was highly combustible Christmas decorations that had been put up in the corridors.  Physical evidence indicates that the fire started near a fourth floor sleeping room.

Aquinas Hall was of mixed construction with a majority of the building being protected by non- combustible construction.  It's a four story building with the first floor being used for class rooms and a chapel, and the second, third, and fourth floors occupied as girl's dormitory space.  Interior finish was primarily non-combustible with exception of the concealed fiber board ceiling above the suspended non-combustible mineral tile.  Fire alarm system which consisted of manual pull stations and three combination rate-of-rise, fixed temperature heat detectors.  The heat detectors were located at the top of each stairway. 

The most significant factors which led to the multiple life loss in this fire were the presence of highly combustible Christmas decorations, and the long dead end corridor near the room of fire origin.  Contributing factors were the absence of an early warning fire detection system, no automatic suppression system and poor compartmentation of the room of origin, as indicated by the fire spread even though the door was closed.

For the full NFPA Fire Journal article.  To learn about Home Christmas Tree and Holiday Light Fires and Home Structure Fires that Began with Decorations